Monthly Archives: February 2015

Twitter users say what they’re giving up for Lent – 2/28/15

Since 2009, Stephen Smith of has been tracking what Twitter users say they are giving up for Lent. It makes for interesting reading but also suggests that Lent “give-ups” are somewhat superficial.

Smith’s 2015 list had a few surprising results. Based on 125,303 tweets, Smith compiled a top 100 list of things people said they were giving up. The top 20 items, in order, were: school, chocolate, Twitter, alcohol, social networking, swearing, soda, sweets, fast food, coffee, college, you, Lent, meat, homework, sex, junk food, pizza, bread, and chips. The top 100 sacrifices — sorted into the most frequently recurring 20 categories, looked like this: food, school/work, technology, habits, smoking/drugs/alcohol, relationship, irony, sex, health/hygiene, religion, entertainment, weather, shopping, sports, money, politics, clothes, celebrity, and possessions.

One would be foolish to presume these are only Christians giving something up for Lent. If they were, we would be justified in presuming they would resume these give-ups after Easter. Now, I can see value in giving up various things in these categories. Food-related items like junk food are for the most part worthy of giving up altogether. Technology items include social networking, which is a huge time-suck with relatively little value.

In fact, researchers often point the finger at social networking preoccupation as a trait of a narcissistic, self-absorbed culture. Susan Greenfield, of the University of Oxford, said in a speech before the United Kingdom’s House of Lords, “Social networking sites might tap into the basic brain systems for delivering pleasurable experience. However, these experiences are devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance. As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilised, characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity.”

Michael Bugeja, a journalism professor at Iowa State University said: “To rebut examples of proactive use of social networks, I could counter with tragic ones, including a recent hoax by an adult ‘neighbour’ that triggered the suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier.”

Christianity Today, commenting on the Twitter list of give-ups made an interesting observation: “One thing people don’t give up: Bible verses. Bible Gateway told CT that Lent is its busiest season of the year, with traffic between Ash Wednesday and Easter clocking in at 15 percent higher than the rest of 2014. Searches relating to dust and fasting increased 1,000 percent and 500 percent respectively on the days surrounding Ash Wednesday. Searches for repentance increased by 50 percent on Ash Wednesday.”

Adopt Positive Practices During Lent

More and more Christians are using Lent as a period to adopt one or more positive practices. I was particularly taken with an article released earlier this month by the United Methodist Church describing positive practices to take up during Lent. Titled “40 Days of Lent: Find Your Own Spiritual Path” Joe Iovino detailed some useful practices one would not discontinue after Lent. Fasting, Bible reading, and prayer headed the list. Many medical authorities attest to the value of periodic fasting. Bible reading, as shared in previous articles, is lacking. The Bible is the source of the Christian faith and worthy of study. There are many versions available, and great resources and apps to facilitate better Bible reading. Prayer is a wonderful way to connect with the Almighty. It can be done anywhere, and anytime. Prayer is not posturing, but a reaching out of the soul to God.

Iovino next suggests service: “Another way to observe a holy Lent is to take on a new way of serving. Throughout the forty days of the season you can adopt a new habit of volunteering in the community, making special financial gifts to service organizations, singing in the choir, or participating in a small group.” These are just a few of the myriad ways one could serve. Locally, call Bean’s Café, Brother Francis Shelter, Downtown Soup Kitchen, or Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission and volunteer to help. You’ll be surprised how quickly they’ll accept your offer, and how rewarding it can be.

Rest, taking a daily Lent quiz, exposing your children to Lent, and learning more about Lent and Easter are meaningful activities concluding Iovino’s list. Following these or similar ideas during Lent could go far in transforming our faith community. In sharing these Lenten activities, I do not imply Christians are not observing Lent properly; many do and are changed by their conscientious observation of Lent.

Ashes to the People

In my column two weeks ago, I mentioned a dedicated group of Lutheran pastors were going to be taking ashes to the people in Town Square on Ash Wednesday. I went downtown to see them doing so. It was a stunning sight to see a group of five white-robed priests standing in front of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts offering ashes to those wanting them. Lutheran Church of Hope’s pastor, the Rev. Julia Seymour applied my ashes in the sign of the cross on my forehead intoning the “dust” phrase, a clear reminder of my mortality. The group told me that many more people this year, than last, asked for ashes, and that many others had questions for them. Christ Our Savior Lutheran’s pastor the Rev. Dan Bollerud told me a group from his church went for dinner at a local restaurant after their Ash Wednesday choir practice. Some restaurant staff inquired about the smudges on their foreheads, and ended up requesting ashes as well.

Personally, I find Lent meaningful as do many other Christians. I enjoy Lenten services at a wide range of churches. I urge you to consider observing Lent, if not already doing so, to obtain new meaning in your spiritual life.

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith for Alaska Dispatch News and on his blog, Church Visits.

New Anchorage churches hold services in school buildings – 2/21/15

During the past year, I’ve attended church services of five church plants here that hold services in public schools. I like the concept of church organizations renting school facilities for after-hours use. The Anchorage School District allows renting elementary, middle and high schools in a businesslike manner. Use charges offset costs of our public school facilities when not in use.

I can see some advantages in using public schools, compared to brick and mortar churches: Schools have slightly more convenient parking, uniform layout for bathrooms, classrooms for teaching children, and large, well-lit multipurpose rooms for worship services. Disadvantages might be the need to bring tables, sound and projection equipment, and displays. However, compared to the cost of purchasing and maintaining a fixed church facility, a rental fee paid to ASD more than compensates for using such a facility. This week’s column will describe two churches using this model for worship services. In subsequent columns, I’ll do the same for other churches.

Clear Water Church

I attended Clear Water Church’s service Sunday. The congregation meet at Wendler Middle School in the multipurpose room, and uses classrooms for “children’s church.” The service lasted about 1 hour and 10 minutes. It consisted of a musical praise time with a small praise band, a heartfelt personal testimony by one of its members, a pastoral time of connection, and a sermon. The sermon, delivered from a script by an affiliated congregation pastor, was a windup of the lengthy series on the Bible called “The Story.” Clear Water conducts communion every other week, and communion was given Sunday. Personally, I liked the service. There was no pressure at any point and attendees were a pleasing mix of millennials to those in their late 50s.

Rev. Mike Merriner of Clear Water said they began meeting at Wendler in 2013, and have been meeting there since. Following up on my observation on millennials, he says 58 percent of attendees are in that category, with 8 percent being college students. The Wendler site was chosen for its proximity to UAA and APU. Clearly it has been a wise choice. In response to a question from me about the cultural pressures and issues millennials face, such as sex, marriage, abortion, afterlife, etc., he said “I think what the millennials attending Clear Water Church appreciate is our willingness to present the Biblical truth claims and argue for their wisdom. Life is better done God’s way. Where else are young people going to get this than in church?”

Merriner, an Anchorage native, received a master’s degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, returning here in 2001. He’s pastored at ChangePoint and Faith Christian Community. Clear Water’s sending church was ChangePoint. A sending church actually facilitates planting a new church in the community, helping it get started financially, prayerfully, and with staff, as necessary. Dan Jarrell, ChangePoint’s teaching pastor, commenting on Merriner noted “When he launched Clear Water, we encouraged people to join him if they shared his vision and even sent one of our elders to help since he was very interested in that work and a close friend and supporter of Mike. We have no authority in those works, but provide counsel and physical support (monthly financial support can often be part of that as are things like buying chairs and tables for them, etc.)”

Clear Water’s vision statement is “Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; love our neighbor as ourselves.” Its mission statement is “Go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded.” Its motto is “God’s vision for life.”

Merriner, commenting on the meaning of Clear Water, said it’s “because our fundamental desire is to help people see reality as God sees it. We want to present God’s word so clearly that people can see God’s perspective on life as clearly as looking at the rocks on the bottom of crystal clear Alaskan lake.”

Clear Water meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at Wendler.

Chugach Covenant Church

I visited Chugach Covenant Church in October 2014 and commented on a facet of their services, immersion baptism, in my ADN column. The structure of their services is similar to Clear Water’s. Meeting at Begich Middle School in East Anchorage, C3 uses Begich’s multipurpose room and classrooms for children.

Rev. Dan Krause offered insight into their beginnings, and purpose. Feeling called to plant a church, he shared those thoughts with a friend, Rev. Mike Merriner of Clear Water. Through this contact, Merriner connected Krause with Rev. Mark Meredith, then pastor of Community Covenant Church in Eagle River. Meredith wanted to plant a church in East Anchorage and was looking for someone who might be interested in doing so. Through these connections a new church was born in 2011. Initially meeting in the Totem 8 Theater, they grew but were concerned with lighting and availability for children’s areas, sparking their transition to Begich.

Krause, responding to my question about targeting says “While we don’t have a specific target age group or demographic, we seem to primarily attract people from three groups; young families, military personnel, and people from the recovery community. As a former children’s pastor, I firmly believe that we must offer a safe place for kids to learn about Christ and begin a life-changing relationship with Him. We also believe that our location gives us a unique opportunity to reach out into the military community.”

Going further, Krause said “It is our vision to be a multiplying church that God uses to bring thousands of people of all race, culture, and economic standing to a transformational and reproducing faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Starting in East Anchorage, extending into the surrounding communities, and to the rest of the world, we will be a church without walls that seeks to love and glorify God, love others, and serve all in Jesus’ name.”

I like the model these churches use; it obviously works. Many churches operate expensive facilities, calling for huge financial outlays annually. If you seek a solid church, consider these.

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, Church Visits.

Ash Wednesday, Lent are growing more popular – 2/14/15

Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent, has traditionally been observed by mainline Protestant and Catholic churches. Other churches have now begun to observe this ancient practice. Many scholars and biblical historians trace Ash Wednesday and Lent to the 10th century. While it is not biblically designated, neither are Easter and Christmas, though most Christian traditions observe those holidays.

On Ash Wednesday — which falls on Feb. 18 this year — clergy apply ashes in the shape of the cross on the foreheads of the faithful, intoning “You are dust, and to dust you shall return,” from Genesis 3:19, or something similar. This reminds us of man’s ultimate fate without forgiveness. The 40-day period of Lent then begins, ending on Holy Saturday (April 4 this year). Lent is observed as a time for reflecting on our spiritual condition, foreshadowing Easter, which signifies forgiveness.

Many local churches offer Ash Wednesday services to observe the beginning of Lent. ADN’s Matters of Faith notices (below) mention some, while a simple Google search reveals many others. Use search terms “2015 Anchorage Ash Wednesday.”

Ash Wednesday innovations

Some local pastors have begun a wonderful practice of taking the ashes to the people. Several Lutheran pastors will be in Town Square Park to apply ashes to the foreheads of those who desire them. Other clergy take ashes to the people, notably the Rev. Sara Miles, an Episcopal priest in San Francisco, whose experiences are described in her book “City of God.” (You can see an interview here at

Christ United Methodist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, offers drive-thru ashes with “Ashes to Go,” moving an activity of the church to where the people are. This is a most basic Christian concept. Didn’t Christ minister to the people where they were? I encourage this concept for Anchorage.

I was intrigued by an account by Richard Beck, chair of Abilene Christian University’s Psychology Department, of an initial celebration of Ash Wednesday last year. ACU is a conservative school of the Church of Christ, a fundamentalist denomination. In response to my amazement, Beck said, “There are a lot of CoC congregations that are exploring Lent and the liturgical calendar. It’s an increasingly common thing in our denomination.”

Rabbit Creek Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation, will celebrate Ash Wednesday for the first time with services at 6:30 p.m. They join a growing number of Baptist churches embracing this meaningful practice.

Muldoon Community Assembly, an Assemblies of God Church, will be imposing ashes on Ash Wednesday. Pastor Kent Redfearn said, “Very few AG churches give Ash Wednesday and Lent any consideration. I like the symbolism and practice of repentance, abstinence, fasting and prayer, so we dabble in both Ash Wednesday and Lent.”

Traditionally, Lent has been seen as a time of giving up certain things. Some pastors now encourage congregations to adopt something new during this period of reflection, such as volunteering, spending more time with family, or renewing prayer life.

Orthodox Lenten practices differ from Western Christianity

The three Orthodox traditions in Alaska follow Eastern Christianity practices. For example, the Rev. Vasili of Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox advises they do not observe Ash Wednesday but that Great Lent begins on Monday, Feb. 23 or Sunday evening with “Vespers of Forgiveness — in which all the members of the parish greet each other to ask, and to grant, forgiveness for all the ways that we have ‘missed the mark’ (Greek word for ‘sin’ means to miss the mark) in the previous year. We ask for forgiveness not only for the things that have directly affected others, but also for our sins that indirectly affect the entire cosmos.”

Orthodox Bishop David Mahaffey said, “Great Lent in the Orthodox tradition has six weeks and five Sundays, and Holy Week is in addition to this fast and is considered a separate fast of its own. Since there are 42 days in the six weeks, we drop off the first Sunday, which is called forgiveness Sunday and all the faithful gather to begin Lent in the afternoon by asking each other for mutual forgiveness. We greet each other with the phrase, ‘Forgive me, a sinner.’ and we reply, ‘God forgives, and so do I.’ Or something similar. (Actually the phrase ‘God forgives’ is sufficient). We also drop off the Saturday before Palm Sunday, which is observed as ‘Lazarus Saturday’ in the Orthodox Church, a precursor to Christ’s own resurrection, and the fasting is relaxed on this day.”

The Rev. Marc Dunaway of St. John Orthodox Cathedral in Eagle River says they follow the same basic practices described above.

Local Catholic practices support the faith

Archbishop Roger Schwietz offered his insights about Ash Wednesday. “The imposition of ashes on the forehead seems to speak powerfully to people today and is very popular. It reminds all of the temporary nature of our life on this earth and is perhaps more relevant in a world filled with insecurity. This is true even for young adults. We have a group of students at UAA who are organizing a service on campus, at which I will preside at 2 p.m. on Ash Wednesday.”

The Rev. Leo Walsh, of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, says his parish has embraced the “New Evangelization” movement by focusing on “whole community catechesis” “to evangelize and form disciples for witness in the community.” He further notes Ash Wednesday and Lent provide opportunities “to educate and celebrate this holy season of 40 days so that we will be prepared for the celebration of the Resurrection.”

Theologian Walter Brueggemann, in his book “Remember You Are Dust,” writes, “Our life is a gift from God. We are dust, we are creatures. And God remembers that. We need to be humble, and yet at the same time remember that God remembers our creatureliness and gives us grace and love and forgiveness. We are dust, our lives are not our own, we serve a greater power.”

I strongly believe Ash Wednesday and Lent can help to focus our minds on a deeper understanding of the riches that culminate in Easter’s celebration.

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, Church Visits. Contact him at

How long should church sermons be? – 2/7/15

One of the key reasons people attend church is to receive pastoral words of biblical wisdom or instruction. In visiting area churches, I notice huge variations in sermon lengths. As I note sermon lengths from time to time, commenters on my observations sometimes take me to task for even mentioning the topic. However, I feel those who attend any church should understand what to expect in sermon lengths as well as in the length of the entire service. Often there are practical considerations driving these expectations; child care, social engagements, or work commitments.

Historically, major Christian preachers have varied their sermon lengths, but it’s safe to say that yesterday’s sermon was much longer than the majority of today’s sermons. However, noted 19th century British preacher Charles Spurgeon, in “Lectures to my Students,” wrote, “In order to maintain attention, AVOID BEING TOO LONG. An old preacher used to say to a young man who preached an hour, ‘My dear friend, I do not care what else you preach about, but I wish you would always preach about forty minutes.’ We ought seldom to go much beyond that — forty minutes, or say, three-quarters of an hour. If a fellow cannot say all he has to say in that time, when will he say it?”

Last week, church researcher Thom Rainer published his observations on this topic in an article titled “Three Major Trends in Sermon Length.” In his article, Rainer classified sermon length in three groupings. I’ve chosen to use his groupings, but will comment upon my own experiences with each locally.

The most frequent preaching length is 20 to 28 minutes.

This is fairly close to what I see in Anchorage on the average. Many preachers wisely stay just under 30 minutes. The perception is important. One Anchorage pastor told me his timing was 17 minutes. He also selected guest pastors based on their ability to deliver this time commitment. Combined with other service elements, his church’s services were exactly one hour in length. With a 20-28 minute pulpit time, and a one-hour service-length expectation, a church must complete its music, offering, prayers, and announcements within the remaining time. Most of the local Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Episcopal churches fall within this timeframe.

However, I’ve seen preaching times of 15 minutes coupled with more than an hour of liturgy. A particular 15-minute homily I heard last year was outstanding, not for its brevity, but by the practical thoughts shared by the pastor. I frequently turn them over in my mind as I go about my daily routine. Culturally we have become accustomed to sound bites, factoids, and talking heads. Our media, especially TV and Internet, are key contributors to this change.

The second most frequent length is 45 to 55 minutes, but the number of pastors preaching this long is diminishing.

This is a number seen frequently here in many churches. To work within an hour to an hour and 15-minute timeframe, often the music service will be shorter, and the basics, such as hymns, corporate prayer, and offering will be shortened. My favorite theologian, Walter Brueggemann, delivers brilliant sermons digging into the biblical material and offering more incredible insights than anyone else I’ve ever listened to in a timeframe of less than an hour (including answering questions from the audience). During my Anchorage years I’ve only seen preachers take questions from the audience twice, and they were texted and selected by someone (not the preacher). I’m quite passionate about what’s missing during sermons, homilies, messages or whatever you call them in your church: It’s dialogue closure. This way preachers can definitively know if they hit the mark, and if not, clarify. Sermons now tend to be one-way, downward flows of information, not two-way conversations. It’s sad.

I attended the Diana Butler Bass lectures at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and St. John United Methodist Church last weekend, and she concluded her talks early to include dialogue with the audience. Preachers with longer sermon times claim they need the extra time for “good exposition” as Rainer terms it. Spurgeon wrote: “If you ask me how you may shorten your sermons, I should say, STUDY THEM BETTER. Spend more time in the study that you may need less in the pulpit.” I believe that advice is needed more today than in Spurgeon’s time as there are many more distractions now than then.

The third most frequent length is one of no time constraints.

Fortunately, I’ve only been to a few churches locally where this is regularly the case. Some clergy love to pontificate or seem to love the sound of their own voice. It’s a patient congregation that endures no time constraint for a sermon. Most love to have some degree of predictability in their time requirements. Some preachers I follow I could listen to all day if they had valuable information to share with me in an interesting and informative manner. The rationale given for this approach is that the preacher needs to allow time for God and the spirit to work, without a time constraint. That makes sense, but I’ve seen shorter sermons where God certainly worked mightily in my heart.


Trends are just trends. Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Paul Scherer, former homiletics professor at Union Theological Seminary, said it took him 18-20 hours of preparation time for each sermon. In blogging my church visits I’ve always stated I look for biblical sermons, delivered well. It’s often difficult for me to find that combination. Today’s topic won’t change anything, as it’s merely tracking a developing trend. Please share your thoughts and conclusions with other readers.

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, Church Visits.

The Rev. Norman Elliott, an Alaska clergy legend, turns 96 on Monday – 1/31/15

National data indicate the average tenure of a pastor is between three and four years. Many pastors retire in their 60s and 70s. One local pastor clearly beats these norms. The Rev. Norman Elliott, who is still going strong, turns 96 on Monday.

During my first 10 years in Anchorage, I didn’t know of Elliott. This changed in 2010, when Mark Lattime was consecrated as the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska. A clergy friend invited me to the post-consecration banquet that evening. The Rev. Norman Elliott was the master of ceremonies, regaling attendees with humor, narratives of the history and growth of the Episcopal Church in Alaska and many introductions. Since then, I’ve talked with him after services at All Saints Episcopal Church in downtown Anchorage. Each time, he shared thoughts about religion and insights into the history of this wonderful church. Recently he gave insights about the wonderful Kimura-designed stained glass in All Saints.

In 2013, 25 years after his official retirement from All Saints, he was thrust back into a leadership role when their rector abruptly left. Currently he serves as priest-in-charge until a new rector is selected. But that’s not all. He is a volunteer chaplain, making almost daily visits to all local hospitals, some resulting in long stints through the night. Elliott is regularly asked to speak to civic groups about his life and experiences in Alaska.

Born in England, he and his family moved to Detroit when he was four. A lifelong Anglican, he made a momentous decision when a middle school teacher pressed him to make a career choice so he could guided into the appropriate high, commercial or technical school. Indecisive, but pressured to decide quickly, he decided one night to choose the ministry. At once he was at peace. After serving as a commissioned officer during World War II, another source of marvelous stories, Elliott finished college. Then it was on to Virginia Theological Seminary, an Episcopal institution, whose primary focus then was training missionaries.

During his final year, his VTS homiletics professor assigned a project researching the life of a famous preacher. Uncharacteristically, for that professor, he suggested Elliott write about World War I English chaplain Geoffrey Anketell Studdert-Kennedy. Elliott feels this was a life-changing experience, especially Studdert-Kennedy’s poetry, which he often recites while telling this story and in his homilies. Elliott is especially taken with “Indifference,” “Woodbine Willie” and “The Sorrow of God.” He credits Studdert-Kennedy with shaping his theology and approaches to people. Graduating in 1951 from VTS with a master of divinity degree, Elliott was ordained a deacon of the Episcopal faith.

Elliott had a burning desire to go to India to serve as a missionary, but no positions were open. Consequently, he accepted a position to go to Alaska, arriving in 1951. Initially serving at St. Mark’s Church in Nenana, he was ordained a priest in 1952, and has served as a priest, rector or archdeacon since.

Dr. Loren Jensen, a longtime member of All Saints, gives the Rev. Elliott this tribute: “I am more than a little biased toward the guy. He is as unique as Alaska itself. Where else would you find a priest that used to fly his bush plane and run a dog sled team to minister to congregations in the villages? He then settled down in Anchorage to be the rector of the oldest Episcopal church in Anchorage, and served his congregation for 27 years until he reached mandatory retirement at age 70. That was 25 years ago.

“Unable to do something as quotidian as retirement, he felt the call to step back into the pulpit when an interim leader was needed for All Saints. That was a year and a half ago. He has been our full-time pastor since then.”

One cannot talk about Elliott’s ministry long without hearing flying stories. In order to get around in the territory he served, he learned to fly and flew until he was transferred to Ketchikan in 1958. The airplane was a tremendous asset to his work. Elliott has pastored at St. Mark’s Church in Nenana, St. Stephen’s Church in Fort Yukon, St. Matthew’s Church in Fairbanks, St. John’s Church in Ketchikan and All Saints Church in Anchorage. He also served as archdeacon of the Interior Deanery in Fairbanks, and currently serves as archdeacon of the South Central Alaska Deanery.

As he is a volunteer hospital chaplain, I was curious as to his experience with death. Elliott says dying people he’s been with have settled faiths and are ready for the next phase of their journey. Deathbed confessions? No, he’s never heard one.

Asked about major village issues, Elliott feels key ones are suicide, alcohol and bringing people to faith. He recounted a village story in which a wife shot her husband. He was taken to the airport to be medevacked to Fairbanks. The Wien plane was in, unloading a major shipment of alcohol. It wouldn’t leave until the alcohol was all unloaded. The man died on the runway.

Asked when Jesus will return, he responded, “Jesus talked of an immediate return. So did the apostle Paul. All I know, it’s in God’s hands.” Asked about changes he’d like to see in religion, he said, “I’d like to see more witness of the faith by clergy and parishioners.”

The Rev. Leo Walsh, pastor of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, offered an explanation of Elliott’s secret. “Father Elliott is one of those unique pastoral personalities that, when he speaks to you, makes you feel like you are the most important person in the world at that time. He gives you all of his attention, not just part of it. In this way, he is a perfect reflection of the God who calls us each by name and loves us individually. You don’t just know Father Elliott, you are known by him, and that makes all the difference.”

Elliott is a major spiritual force in our community. The Episcopal Church today has its critics, but All Saints’ members and its leaders, Elliott and the Rev. David Terwilliger, are jewels in our community. I praise God for Elliott’s service. If you’re a person of faith, pray that God will strengthen him and keep him in the palm of His hand. Thank you for your 64 years of godly service, Elliott.

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, Church Visits.